Why are WH political aides getting military chauffeurs?
posted at 8:48 am on May 11, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
National-security advisers to the President sometimes get military chauffeurs for their commute to the White House, although traditionally that has been limited to senior staff. Everyone else in the White House normally drives themselves to work, except of course the President, who lives there. However, in the era of Hope and Change, political advice is apparently at least as important to Barack Obama as national security issues. How else to explain why David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, two of Obama’s political advisers, now rate military chauffeurs on a daily basis?
President Obama has expanded the very small group of top aides who are given the privilege of taxpayer-funded personal drivers — who take them from their house to work and back home again each day — to include two top political advisers.
The Bush White House did not give the same privileges to any of its political advisers, according to former Bush administration officials. There is a record of the Clinton White House doing so once for two months, according to documents obtained by The Daily Caller.
Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod, both senior advisers to the president, have been given the luxurious and prestigious perk of being picked up at their homes and driven to work or around town throughout the day in government vehicles chauffeured by military drivers, according to a list of those given the benefit provided to The Daily Caller by the White House.
Jarrett has also received protectee status from the Secret Service, an unusual designation for someone on the political side of the White House. As the Daily Caller notes, Karl Rove — who certainly had no dearth of harsh critics and had a higher profile than Jarrett — never got Secret Service protection. That could mean that specific threats have been made against Jarrett that require more protection for her safety, and the Secret Service rightly won’t comment on that possibility. However, the Secret Service did tell the Daily Caller that the Obama administration has fewer protectees than the preceding Bush administration.
A former Bush aide explains how the “portal to portal” service got allocated:
“We drew the line at who needed secure communications pretty much constantly,” said Joe Hagin, who was deputy White House chief of staff for operations. “Counsel didn’t have it. Karen Hughes, Dan Bartlett, they never had it. Karl [Rove] never had it. Barry Jackson never had it.”
The President, VP, and some of the Cabinet get full Secret Service protection, which comes with drivers; the rest of the Cabinet get the “portal to portal” service now extended to Axelrod and Jarrett. Bush added only a couple of people to the list — a deputy national security adviser and his Homeland Security adviser.
So why do political operatives get military chauffeurs? And why are we paying for it?